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Healthcare Consumerism, Privacy, and Compliance in the Digital World

How to overcome obstacles in the patient commerce journey

Consumerism is changing the way pharmaceutical, biotech, and other health companies do business. In a healthcare utopia, marketers would create impactful assets and launch powerful print and online campaigns that were immediately adopted and widely utilized by every member of their sales team.

Tina Wilson

Healthcare providers would repeatedly purchase and prescribe the company’s products, and patients would engage quickly, writing glowing reviews that demonstrate their complete loyalty to the brand—perhaps even becoming influencers to friends and family about their favorite products.

Unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world. Health-focused organizations are trying desperately to adjust to the disruption caused by digital commerce while meeting the demands of patients and healthcare providers for quality and convenience. And as healthcare companies increasingly target products toward tech-savvy consumers with the hope of building patient engagement and brand loyalty, they must also navigate legal, compliance, and regulatory guidelines; disconnects between marketing and sales teams; and a daunting technology landscape.

Responses to a 2019 survey from Helio Health showed that healthcare companies are increasingly serious about internal legal and compliance oversight. Among 36 small, medium, and large firms, 60 percent of respondents had dedicated resources specifically for legal and compliance oversight—up from 39 percent in 2018. Frighteningly, 7 percent were aware that sales reps had access to patient data—a shortcoming for which healthcare companies have been penalized in the recent past—and this despite the fact that 44 percent of respondents named sales rep-patient interactions as their “biggest concern.”

Enter the progressive push of commerce, consumerism, and personalization, and the concerns of healthcare companies escalate considerably. For many organizations, these topics conjure images of privacy lawsuits, federal investigations, and multimillion-dollar fines. But embarking on a digital commerce journey doesn’t have to be the venture into the wild west some firms describe. Heeding the following four factors will help you tame fears and successfully navigate the journey. 

1. Establish a Digital Roadmap

Establishing a comprehensive digital roadmap is often a large hurdle in and of itself, because many companies have difficulty even deciding where to begin. But this critical first step must not be overlooked. Your roadmap should include input from key stakeholders in each affected area within the organization and milestones for continued success throughout the journey. Celebrating each achieved milestone in ways that reflect or help shape your company culture will not only help to ensure interest in the project but also will increase internal awareness of the compliance guardrails at each stage. Engaging organizational leaders and influencers early and often in this process can mean the difference between strong internal advocacy with reinforced protections and simply another failed project.

2. Motivate Your Marketing Team

The second factor is a motivated marketing team that actively engages with their internal product managers and scientific review boards or committees to produce engaging campaigns and effective tools and tell a compelling and compliant story. Consumers love a good story, especially if they feel a connection to the events or the personalities involved. Personalization, while protecting privacy, is critical to ensure loyalty. Marketers are demotivated when their materials are not utilized. Scheduling regular meetings wherein influencers from the sales or key account management teams can submit ideas or questions and receive open feedback can go a long way toward motivating, engaging and bridging gaps between teams. Respectful, open communication is key, and allows teams to exchange perspectives that highlight interactions with thought leaders, key opinion leaders, patients, and other pivotal relationships in the industry. These interactions help with the development of materials, stories, and campaigns that deeply resonate. Marketers who create compelling campaigns only to find that the sales team is not engaged or excited about implementation eventually lose interest in the cause.

3. Ensure Sales Team Adoption

As we have all experienced in this industry, just because you build it doesn’t mean it will be used. Sales team adoption of compliant marketing tools, campaigns, and materials is perhaps the most critical component of this journey.

While the relationships between sales leaders and their territory’s healthcare providers are arguably the most important to the success of a company, positive relationships between marketing and sales within your organization are critical. Closing the gap between marketing and sales while enabling compliant sales engagement is key to ensuring strategic success. Your roadmap must include effective and compliant marketing materials; adoption and scenario sales training; and implementation goals that enable sales leaders to achieve their targets while protecting the company from costly privacy violations, lawsuits, and litigation.

4. Engage a Trusted Partner

While there are very specific and actionable ways to mitigate risk and still reach consumers seeking a retail-like healthcare experience, digital commerce partners that have successfully mapped the journey from retail to healthcare, while following strict regulations and guidelines, are rare. Healthcare companies require a trusted partner that can seamlessly integrate with internal teams to create a digital ecosystem that aligns with strategic imperatives to reach consumers and achieve brand stickiness. In addition, they need partners that have woven into their solutions specific requirements and guidelines for protecting patient privacy, ensuring compliance with all government regulations, and providing adequate internal messaging to gain support from key stakeholders at all levels of the company.

Astound has mapped this complicated journey and created compliant, groundbreaking solutions for some of the world’s largest healthcare companies. We have deep industry expertise and consistently proven results in this space. We can help you develop the strategy to navigate the complex consumerism journey and build a commerce ecosystem that protects your company and your information while providing lasting positive results. Get in touch to learn more.

A version of this article was published on PharmaLive on February 11, 2020.

Read Tina Wilson's article on consumerism and the healthcare industry. 


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